Richard Trapp and Chris K081

Richard Trapp and Chris K081

By Dixie Whitman

Chris was a particularly talented gal, she had to be because she was working alongside members of an elite Navy SEAL team whose every movement was precise and inevitable. She was a gorgeous German shepherd dog of deep sable color, perfect ear set with an exquisite structure that matched her beautiful mind. All of those talents and assets were honed by her handler, Richard Trapp, into a Patrol and Explosives Dog extraordinaire, Chris K081.

It was Trapp's second Deployment, but his first as a dog handler. In addition to Chris' skills in the field, the teamwork built with Trapp was flawless in execution and resulted in their being pulled to work highly sensitive and critical missions with members of the Special Forces Group.

One such day happened to be on July 4th. Sure, it was Independence Day back home with parades, family reunions and BBQs, but here in the hot, wretched Hellhole of Afghanistan, the day would be spent on a mission to assist a nearby village deal with their Taliban infestation issues.

The mission that day remains mostly classified so we cannot know the intensity of battle or final results, but ultimately, after a firefight lasting two hours, the team prepared to return back to their tiny Forward Operating Base (FOB) to rest, Mission Complete.

Driving the dangerous roadways is always an issue in Afghanistan. Today was no different, except due to the extreme terrain, these guys were riding All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs). The ATV that Chris and Richard rode hit a 60 pound IED that day. As Trapp remembers, "It was a scary event. I didn't know if we were dead or alive." Fortunately, it was their lucky day as only half of the explosive actually detonated, but the heat from the half that did explode burned Trapp's uniform and melted his boots
"It was nerve-racking, I went back to the FOB, got on the phone, called my wife and I told her, "I just wanted to say I love you."

Chris continues to perform flawlessly. She will do anything for a KONG toy. That deployment with Trapp she had 7 confirmed finds, including two bomb making factories, a weapons cache filled with AK47s and rounds of ammunition along with multiple IEDs. Her work no doubt saved the lives of coalition soldiers and local civilians. As she continues to work, she moves towards her retirement, which Trapp plans to be on a couch in his living room.

We thank this hardworking gal with a great nose for all of her expertise and success over the years and wish her Godspeed on her journey home from her current deployment and into the welcoming arms of her former handler and permanent retirement.

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Thomas Jackson and Toby

Army Specialist Thomas J. Jackson and Toby L024

Six year old Toby L024 was a shiny, sleek black Labrador Retriever with a silly grin and slightly graying muzzle when he was partnered with Army Specialist Thomas J. Jackson during their 11-month deployment to the worst areas of Afghanistan. They developed the same characteristics: weary, dust-covered, yet always willing to work. Whether walking point on a combat patrol, clearing roadways of explosive devices or hunting for Taliban leaders, this dog team was relentless.

As a Specialized Search Dog (SSD), Toby's job was to use his nose off lead and work ahead of his handler. Toby went on hundreds of patrols and found many IEDs, several caches of Rocket Propelled Grenades with propellant tubes, and even an old 250 lb. Russian GBU (Guided Bomb Unit) that was dropped during the Russian occupation, but failed to detonate on impact. That one bomb in the hands of the Taliban would have had the potential to reduce homes and buildings into rubble and kill dozens of people.

During one intense firefight with the enemy, a Marine was gravely wounded and bleeding profusely. The only way to get him medical care was through a path cleared by Toby. The Marine received the needed care and survived. On another mission clearing a house, Toby went first, immediately sat at the door and would not allow anyone to enter. His educated nose had found several mortar rounds booby-trapped to explode when someone flipped on the light switch.

Due to the intense requirements of this duty, SSD Teams remain together until one of them retires. When a handler changes bases, the dog goes with him, unlike other narcotics, explosives or patrol dogs used in the military. Currently Toby and his handler are based at Fort Hood, Texas.

For his work, Toby received special playtime with a ball. For his, Specialist Thomas J. Jackson was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for exceptionally meritorious service. Toby was also nominated for this award, but because our military does not recognize the heroism of dogs, we are nominating Toby as ACE Hero dog with the following comments from his handler:

"If I had to say anything about Toby's work, I would say this: I walked in front of everyone on countless missions, was engaged by enemy fire, had to run through fire to safety and then return fire to allow others to make it to safety. I've crept through the night to enter and exit enemy houses while looking for Taliban and weapons caches. I've ridden helicopters into fields next to houses full of insurgents, moments before storming them, then waited patiently for them to return to pick me up after the mission was over. I've done all of those things, but Toby did them by my side, and in most cases while walking in front of me. He saved my life and the lives of the men I worked with. I am an American Soldier, and he is my Hero."

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Ssgt Phillip Mendoza III and Rico

SSgt Phillip Mendoza III and Rico

The last read on the thermometer was a blistering 122 degrees with a major sandstorm en route. Good thing Rico couldn't read the thermometer or the weather forecast, as he might have protested this mission. It included road clearing, a non-descript euphemism for leading a foot patrol to ensure the path is not booby-trapped with explosives; using his nose to track down that tell-tale scent of explosive, wiring, and bomb parts that mean seriously bad news for anyone who encounters them. One miss and everyone has a grim day.

Rico is a nine year old Belgian Malinois trained in Bomb Detection and Patrol. He is based at Moody AFB, Georgia, but currently working with his partner, SSgt Phillip Mendoza III, near Baghdad as part of the 332nd ESFG (Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron). General duties include vehicle and luggage searches and perimeter patrols inside the wire, inside the compound, in relative safety. But oddly, this team prefers the adrenalin rush of work outside the wire, sometimes even in vineyards, orchards and fields which are much more like home than the moon-like landscape found in the Iraqi desert or the cluttered drab brown confines of base.

Rico and Mendoza, together for less than a year, gelled as a team in every sense of the word and have similar philosophies in life. This is Rico's fourth deployment to Iraq and Mendoza's fifth. They both relish long hours of grueling work, but they play even harder. Rico works dangerous missions in unbearable heat for a pat on the head and a round of fetch with his multi-colored ball. While the grey in his muzzle affirms his age, he acts like a puppy with all of his "off work" foolishness. Rico seems to take a lesson from Ashley Montagu's wisdom: "I want to die young at a ripe old age." Each day he rises before dawn and is eager to go out and do his thing with his best buddy.

A recent emotionally rewarding find for this team was the uncovering of a roadway IED. Walking point at a dangerous roadway location, the team was conducting a search when Rico alerted strongly, convincing Mendoza that something wicked was in the route. They marked the area, and then ran back towards their patrol, Rico actually ahead of Mendoza chasing that crazy multi-colored ball into relative safety. They called for explosive experts to clear the spot. What they found below the rocky road was in fact a very nasty weapon: a 152mm shell with additional explosives buried below the ground in an attempt to kill and injure Coalition Forces who frequented that roadway. It could have done immense damage and changed many, many lives for the worse, but it didn't; one more success for this amazing team.

After that find, Mendoza visited the chow hall and brought back two juicy rib-eye steaks for Rico knowing he deserved them. Mendoza plans to make Rico's retirement cushy by adopting him when this ebullient dog's military service is complete.

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Al Dodds and Tess

Tess

Tess, a jubilant German Shepherd Dog, and her owner/handler, Al Dodds, had been working with a Search and Rescue group in the southeastern U.S. for a few years, when Tess' special skill in Human Remains Detection offered them a bigger challenge, a chance to contract with the U.S. Army and go to Iraq, primarily in search of missing American Soldiers. The U.S. Military does not have a program to produce Human Remains Detection Dogs.

Al, a 60 year old former Military Dog Handler served his country in Vietnam while walking Sentry with his Navy K-9. He's excited to be working K-9 again. "Like many Vietnam veterans, I carried a feeling of unfinished business," he said, "I approached this as an opportunity to answer that, to have another chance. A lot of guys I served with in Vietnam would have jumped at it, too. And, I feel honored to be supporting the military and blessed to be healthy enough to do so at my age."

For over a year and a half, Tess has been working all of the hot spots in Iraq: Mosul, Ba'qubah, Fallujah, Mahmoudiya, Baghdad and every sandy spot in between. It's not just "Search and Rescue", it's "Search and Rescue on steroids". Anytime Tess is called out to search an area identified by intel as a possible site for either a missing American or a mass grave, she is required to have an entourage with her. Depending on how dangerous the mission may be, there may be a caravan of vehicles with helicopters providing security overhead. While all searches are a collaboration of teamwork, Tess' talented nose is a major key to the find.

Tess has gone to desolate locations where no trace of human activity can be found and has tracked down that one molecule of special scent that she is seeking, finding two mass graves and five individual graves so far. Her handler gives her the search command, and Tess begins her hunt for any scent of Human Remains. Tess' reward for hours of grueling hot, sandy work? Playtime with a special purple Kong toy.

Among the most emotionally rewarding finds for her handler is the recent return of the remains of an Ohio Soldier who was captured by insurgents in April 2004, after his convoy came under attack near Baghdad International Airport.

While no one wants to find bad news, bringing home the remains of America's Military Men and Women is of critical importance to the moral of the other Soldiers. And, it allows the family to begin grieving and closure.

There are currently still three Americans missing from this War and a fourth man is still missing from the First Gulf War so the search goes on. And, for the moment, Tess is on the front lines, her nose rising and lowering with the hot, dry air currents that will bring her that one special scent molecule, that one step closer to success--one step closer to bringing home one more American hero.

Written by Dixie Whitman, MWDTSA
Submitted via Ozark Kennel Club, Missouri

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Chris & Lucca

Lucca, October 2007

It's 105 degrees outside, and it's just the cusp of summer. Lucca K458, a four year old female Belgian Malinois, works silently, walking point on a combat patrol; her nose lifted high and then brought low, reading the still air as easily as her handler would read a newspaper. Suddenly, she stops. Finding the smell she seeks, this gifted Explosives Dog lies down and stares at the scent, communicating the find to her Marine handler, SSgt Chris Willingham. Lucca has just alerted on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), planted roadside with the intent to kill the Soldiers behind her. But, that won't happen today. One more success for this expertly trained Marine Dog, one less success for the enemy.

SSgt Willingham knows the danger that "choke points" bring. When a convoy approaches a point where it must slow down or stop, a "choke point", such as a canal crossing, intersection or bend in the road, gives more time to watching insurgents to detonate their weapons. Lucca's mission is to alert on the explosives beforehand, have them rendered harmless and move out.

During one house to house search, Lucca and Willingham were looking through a TV repair shop, filled with all the typical electrical parts and wiring that one would anticipate finding there. All seemed normal, except the man's composure. In a back room, in a box tucked away under a table, Lucca suddenly alerted, telling Willingham that explosives were present. The owner's hands tested positive for residual explosive; one more bomb maker out of business.

Lucca's list of accomplishments is lengthy and includes finding 2 IEDs, 1 Car Bomb, caches of homemade explosives, numerous concealed AK-47s with Mags, Dsh-Ks (vehicle mounted 50 caliber Soviet guns), hidden along the Tigris River and lethal Dsh-K rounds buried in an above ground tomb in a cemetery; her finds leading to arrests of many insurgents.

This team has been part of numerous combat patrols, including Air Assaults. In Willingham's words, "We conducted an Air Assault one night, and when we hit the house we did not find the High Value Target we were looking for. As others were interviewing the witnesses, I took a 4 man team to conduct open area searches around the house. Lucca started to show a change, but it was not her normal change of behavior. I told the team there was something alive out there in the darkness. About 20 yards later, she began to growl, so I alerted the team and they conducted a sweep of the area..............about 30 yards away in a canal was the insurgent we were looking for. She is not trained for patrol work, but that's just the dog's natural ability."

Lucca is truly a heroine to those Soldiers who safely follow in her footsteps.

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Chris Calloway & Rex

Chris Calloway & Rex with soldiers

Rex: Nomination for "Hero Dog in the Service"

Dear GSDCA Board:

It is my great honor and joy to be able to nominate RexD012 for the honor of Hero Dog in the Service category. Rex along with his human partner, U.S. Navy Petty Officer MA1 Christopher Calloway, impressed me from the first moment I saw them. They are both dedicated professionals and are a team in the truest and most fundamental sense of the word.

Chris Calloway & Rex in the snow
Chris Calloway & Rex in the snow

MA1 Calloway and Rex attended the 2005 War Dog Memorial Re-dedication in June of 2005 at Ft. Benning, Georgia, where I first met them. Calloway and Rex wanted to honor all dog teams past and present and the salute Calloway made at the War Dog Memorial made the newspapers around the world as part of the AP news network and brought attention to the legacy of the Military Working Dog with his quote, “I have the best job in the world.”

Later that same year, in October 2005, I spent a day watching the work done by Rex and other Navy K9s at King’s Bay Naval Submarine Base (NSB) in south coastal Georgia, where they are responsible for security patrols and narcotic detection on the nuclear submarine base. Rex is now a seven-year-old GSD imported from Germany. As a teenager, Rex completed basics at Lackland AFB in Narcotics Detection and Patrol and was sent to NSB Kingsbay, Georgia in 1999 where he started work and continues his training daily. Rex is considered by the Kennel Master, MA1 Strobeck, as one of the most superlative dogs he’s seen in his nearly 20 years of service. Rex has been known to take test shots at the Kennel Master during feeding, but it hasn’t diminished Strobeck’s praise for this dog. “He will protect Calloway or whoever is his handler to the end. That to me is personal. He is one of the most devoted MWD's that I have had contact with.”

Chris Calloway & Rex with children
Chris Calloway & Rex with children

Rex’s days at King’s Bay are filled with sweeps of cars entering the base, patrolling the base as an MP and other normal duties. Although, normal being a relative term, if you consider a GSD being lowered down a hatch into a docked nuclear submarine for random checks as a “routine” duty. Having recently been on one of the nuclear subs, I can attest to how far straight down that hatch really is and how incredibly small and confining the spaces in a submarine are. Calloway reports that Rex negotiates these circuitous pathways with the unruffled ease of a seasoned submariner.

Rex and Calloway were deployed to Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom in December 2005. Arriving east of Jalalabad in the rugged mountains near the Afghani-Pakistani border (where the average altitude is 4500 meters) during the fury of an Afghani winter had its own challenges. For this pair more accustomed to sultry southern climes, the initial mission included the freezing of MA1 Calloway’s pistol in the firing position. Some of the information about their work remains classified, however, we do know that this team was attached to the DEA and British Special Forces (SAS/SBS Forces) to conduct drug interdiction throughout eastern Afghanistan and worked in the Aachien District, the Nangarhar Province, Hajj Juni Kahn Village and innumerable caves and crevices in eastern Afghanistan, searching for and destroying heroin, opium and weapons caches.

To access the caves and steep mountainsides, they were sometimes required to jump out of helicopters onto very rugged terrain, as there was nowhere to land the helo. Laughingly, Calloway says that this land is so desolate and harsh, that it should only be used by mountain goats. Coming from the humid heat of the Georgia coast, Rex took the snowy mountain crags like a duck to water, impressing all of his DEA and British Special Ops team. I’ll include some first hand accounts from MA1 Calloway’s emails to give you a flavor of what was going on for this dynamic duo in their efforts to stem the tide of drugs headed westward to America.

“How’s it going? I just wanted to check in with you. Today was my first day out. I really can't get into details but I'm sooo exhausted. I was with the British Special Forces and "DEA". We went to places -- only goats and donkeys can maneuver out there. The weather was soooooo bad that my 9MM froze in the fire position and I couldn't even chamber a round if I needed to. My feet are slightly frost bitten. I had so much gear and at times I was struggling to make it up those hills. The big story here is my dog Rex. He would notice every time I wasn't with him and he would come back to see I was okay. I took a bad fall on the ice. I thought I broke my arm and wrist, but I’m OK. Rex was flawless for 9 hours straight in 20-degree temperature. He did not falter at all. He was sooooo strong out there, especially considering the elements. The helicopter pilots were very impressed. There were some places they could not land squarely so we all to jump at least 5-8 feet to the ground. Rex took the snow as if he was from Alaska. I was very impressed and very proud of him. Those mountains we were in were something out of a fairy tale, I couldn't believe it. I took some pictures with a disposable camera; hopefully the pics will come out okay. The British special forces and the Afghan special forces were so professional...Have a great day. Chris.”

The exact amount of drugs that RexD012 and Calloway have taken out of the pipeline is currently classified information as they have not yet returned from Afghanistan. Their return date is slated for mid-June. However, what we do know is that during their six month tour, an excess of 10 tons of opium and heroin base have been found and destroyed due to Rex and MA1 Calloway’s work.

“Heeeey, how's everything going? I’m sending some photos of our first mission. Take a good look at all of that opium. That was some serious drugs and the labs that they make it from. We blew the labs and set fire to the opium. Some of the campsites were vacant but you could tell the opium makers had recently been there. They heard the "helos" coming in and they took off. I took a pic of my weapon because I couldn't believe it froze like that, but at least it was in the firing position. The black tar heroin was something else, that's how they package everything. I have more pics, so stand by. Take care. Chris”

Not only were Rex and Calloway assisting the DEA and British Special Ops, they also helped check out the Embassies. They taught Afghani handlers how dog handling should be done, cementing relationships with our allies, initiated training for other groups, providing security sweeps for visiting dignitaries and serving as Goodwill Ambassadors with the Afghani kids. In a nutshell, they did it all.

“Hello, how's everything going? I just returned from my trip and I had a great time. I was camped out at this Afghani camp sharing some info on K-9's. The British bought the Afghanis two dogs at $10,000: Sniper and Nero. The dogs knew odor, but it was the handlers that were having the hard time and needed our help. I had a translator and he was great. He translated everything I said and we were able to really get some good techniques shared. I spent 3 days with them and I showed them some great training tips and I also had Rex show them how it should be done. : ) I will check on them again in 3 weeks....Thanks for the care packages. Chris”

and a few days later…

“Good morning, how's everything going? How was the weekend? As for Rex and me we are doing very well. Today I was spent some time with DYNCORP to help out with their K-9 teams they are trying to put together to run on the borders. One drug and one explosive. They have two Afghanistan handlers and two German shepherds to work with. The handlers came over today and I went over a few things and did “Show and Tell” with Rex. The K-9's come from Uzbekistan somewhere near the border of Russia and the handlers speak Russian and the commands are in Russian so I'm looking forward to this. I will send some pics when I get the chance. Here is a pic of Sgt Nunez with President Bush. He has another one with Laura Bush. We made sure the President and Mrs. Bush were safe when they came to visit us recently. Chris.”

Rex and MA1 Calloway are consummate professionals, true American heroes, and battle tested. Even when things go other than expected, they step up to the plate, do their job and take on additional duties.

“Hello, how's your day going? As for me I'm sooo tired. Rex and I went on another mission today somewhere out there. I never know exactly where we are but the helicopter we were riding in ''CRASHED'' today after we got drop off at the target site. Everyone was okay, a lot of my gear is torn up from the crash but fortunately, Rex and I had just gotten off. We had a good day as far as locating drugs and providing security at the crash site. Here are a few pics from today’s mission. I'm heading to bed now, as I've been up for 17 hours now.”

As you can probably discern, the area that Rex and Calloway are serving in is well known for its system of caves and hiding places and is suspected of providing cover for some of the world’s most feared and well-known terrorists. While this type of information is totally classified, I am certain, without a doubt, that with Chris and Rex on the prowl, eastern Afghanistan is not the easy haven that it might once have been for terrorist activity. If you put two and two together, I’m sure you can come up with the answer.

MA1 Calloway and MWD Rex have been working together for three years and have a seamless working relationship. Calloway will retire in a couple of years and hopes to take Rex into retirement with him. Because of their exemplary work locating and destroying so many drugs I would like to add GSDC of America’s Hero Dog Award to a list of honors they have received. However, in addition to that you have a dog and handler who are working in an unbelievably rugged environment and remaining flawless, proving to be the truly professional dog team while dealing with a multitude of nationalities among our allies and providing security for the President during his visit to this hostile area. For everything they are, Rex and Chris are true, true heroes.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Dixie Whitman
GSDC of America member since 1991

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Malinois: Max and More

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Kimba, a Belgian malinois military working dog assigned to the 673d Air Base Wing Security Forces Squadron, runs toward an aggressor during a training session on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Aug. 26, 2013. Security Forces Airmen continually train with their K9 counterparts to keep their teams flexible to respond to law enforcement emergencies, and for overseas deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)

malinois-biting-training-mit

Max and More

You’ve seen the movie, Max, and are awed at the capabilities of military working dogs and maybe Belgian malinois, in particular. You’re thinking about adopting a military working dog or adding a malinois to your family because they seem like such amazing dogs. Here are some things that you should know before you start your journey looking for a new family member.

Malinois training with handlerMalinois are often called maligators, for a reason, by those who know and love them. This is a brilliant breed for working and especially for hard hitting, high energy work, like military or police work. They are not, in general, a good companion breed and certainly not a dog that you can ignore and stick out in the back yard. Some people says malinois is French for “Don’t Get One”, at least if you are not an experienced owner and don’t plan to spend hours daily working with your dog.

These dogs require a serious job and if they don’t have a job, they will find one. Their job description may include things such as: shred the couch, chew the door off the hinges, rip up the carpet – which is probably more in line with a demolition crew than the pet you thought you were bringing home.

This is not to say these dogs aren’t brilliant, they are. But, they are high drive, active and require a dedicated, experienced owner who is committed to their education, which means that being away significant amounts of the day, doesn’t work well for this breed. If you find a breeder who is content with selling a dog to a novice without asking tons of questions, s/he’s not the breeder for you. Ethical breeders will want to be sure their high drive dogs go to a working home that is a perfect match.

Those who love malinois are concerned that people will ignore the realities of malinois ownership and buy one anyway. If you are still thinking about adding this breed to your home, please do enough research to answer your questions. Here is a good link.

http://www.malinoisclub.com/abmc/about-the-malinois/is-the-malinois-right-for-you

Many malinois end up in rescue because they are not what the novice owner thought they were getting. If you’re interested in a rescue malinois, check out this link:

http://www.malinoisrescue.org/

And, if you’re interested in adopting a retired military working dog, please go directly to the source at Lackland AFB. The dog disposition unit is at Lackland and they coordinate all of the adoptions- so please don’t call individual kennels and interrupt their important training. There is no fee for adopting a retired dog, but you are responsible for transport and healthcare. This is the easiest way to get your name on a list. You can begin the adoption process by completing and submitting the required paperwork application at this link:

http://www.37trw.af.mil/units/37traininggroup/341sttrainingsquadron/index.asp

Thanks to the DoD for the images.

Healing Our Soldiers

February 2015 National Geographic cover "Healing Our Soldiers"

Credit: National Geographic

For more information on this exceptional piece, please follow this link:
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/healing-soldiers

The following is an excerpt from the February issue of National Geographic.  The full feature is available at nationalgeographic.com.

“THE INVISIBLE WAR ON THE BRAIN by Caroline Alexander

Brain trauma from blast force is the signature injury of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, afflicting hundreds of thousands of U.S. combat personnel. Although unseen, the damage strikes deeply into a soldier’s mind and psyche.

INSIDE THE PROTECTIVE BUNKER I waited with the explosives team, fingers wedged firmly in my ears. Outside, shot number 52, trailing a 20-foot length of yellow-and-green-striped detonating cord, was securely taped to the wall of a one-room plywood building with a steel fire door. There was a countdown from five, a low “pow,” and a dull thump in the center of my chest. The thump is the hallmark of blast. “You feel the thump,” one team member told me. “I’ve been in blast events where we’re actually hundreds or even thousands of feet away, and I still feel that thump.”

The mystery of what that thump does had brought me to a World War II bombing range some 40 miles southeast of Denver. Back then it was used to test half-ton ordnance; now it serves to study controlled explosives used by soldiers to blast holes through walls and doors in combat areas—standard practice in modern warfare. The eventual objective of these tests is to discover what that blast thump does to the human brain.”

All images are from the February issue of National Geographic magazine. MWDTSA watermark is applied to prevent unauthorized photo redistribution.

Picture of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Tam with wife and baby
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Tam (Ret.)
Iraq 2004-05, 2007-08.
© Lynn Johnson/National Geographic

“Detonation happened, and I was right there in the blast seat. I got blown up. And all this medical study—nobody ever thought that they [blast events] were very harmful, and so we didn’t log them, which we should because all blast forces are cumulative to the body. On a grade number for me, it would probably be 300-plus explosions … I’m not going to not play with my children. I’m not going to let my injuries stop them from having a good life.”

Marine Cpl. Chris McNair sitting on his parents' porch, in full uniform, wearing a mask he made in therapy.
Marine Cpl. Chris McNair (Ret.)
Afghanistan 2011-12
© Lynn Johnson/National Geographic

Impeccable in his Marine uniform and outwardly composed, McNair sits on the porch of his parents’ home in Virginia, anonymous behind a mask he made in an art therapy session.

“I was just going through pictures, and I saw the mask of Hannibal Lecter, and I thought, ‘That’s who I am’ … He’s probably dangerous, and that’s who I felt I was. I had this muzzle on with all these wounds, and I couldn’t tell anyone about them. I couldn’t express my feelings.”

Army Staff Sgt. Perry Hopman wearing his half patriotic, half death head mask.
Army Staff Sgt. Perry Hopman
Iraq 2006-08
© Lynn Johnson/National Geographic

Wearing his mask—half patriotic, half death’s-head—Hopman confronts the battery of medications he takes daily for blast-force injuries he sustained while treating soldiers as a flight medic.

“I know my name, but I don’t know the man who used to back up that name … I never thought I would have to set a reminder to take a shower, you know. I’m 39 years old. I’ve got to set a reminder to take medicine, set a reminder to do anything… My daughter, she’s only four, so this is the only dad she’s ever known, whereas my son knew me before.”

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Tiffany H. wearing her blind eye and sealed lips mask.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Tiffany H.
Iraq 2007-08, Afghanistan 2010-11
© Lynn Johnson/National Geographic

Tiffany H., as she prefers to be known, was “blown up” while helping women in a remote Afghan village earn additional income for their families. Memory loss, balance difficulties, and anxiety are among her many symptoms. The blinded eye and sealed lips on her mask.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert “Bo” Wester, wearing his mask made in therapy.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert “Bo” Wester (Ret.)
Iraq 2007, 2008-09, Afghanistan 2010
© Lynn Johnson/National Geographic

Suiting up before attempting ordnance disposal

“is the last line. There’s no one else to call … It’s the person and the IED … and if a mistake is made at that point, then death is almost certain. They call it the long walk because once you get that bomb suit on, number one, everything is harder when you’re wearing that 100 pounds … Two, the stress of knowing what you’re about to do. And three, it’s quiet, and it seems like it takes an hour to walk.”

Picture Yourself as a MWDTSA Volunteer

Jan Slotar holding up a picture frame so you can picture yourself as a volunteer!

New Year~~New You

Volunteers are how we roll. Would you like to get involved but don’t know how? Let us show you how easy it can be to become part of our MWDTSA Team and why it may be just the thing for you.

As an all volunteer organization, volunteers are the lifeblood of everything we do. That means that each individual who volunteers with MWDTSA contributes to the support we provide to our military working dog teams. Each year, we successfully ship care packages, complete base visits and recognition events, educate the general public and advocate on behalf of retired dogs.

The help you supply is vital. It is real, tangible, and relied upon to help us reach and exceed our goals. Join our dynamic national network of volunteers who donate their time and talent to MWDTSA. Most of our volunteer efforts are virtual, which means you can join us from anywhere in the country and make a real contribution toward furthering our goals. We couldn’t do what we do without dedicated, hard-working, enthusiastic volunteers like you. But, what’s in it for you?

It’s rewarding. Find Meaning and Purpose at Any Age: Sharing what you’ve learned with others can be a rewarding opportunity to give back. It’s a way to show the troops that you support them.

Courtney holding and MWDTSA badgeIt’s good for your health: mental and physical. Experience Improved Health and Well-being: Many people who volunteer say that helping others gives them a good feeling inside. There seems to be an actual physical sensation that occurs when people help others that makes them experience greater energy and strength, less depression and increased feelings of self-worth.

It’s fun and makes you reinvent yourself. Make New Friends and Improve Your Mind: you’ll be meeting and working with people from across the country and varied backgrounds. If you had told me before I started that I’d have learned how to write press releases, communicated with some of the individuals that I have at various levels of the government and made as many friends from all across the military, I would not have believed you. It’s been a blast. Step into our world.

Current Volunteer Needs

Allison and a poinsettia plantWe have a unique and varied need of volunteer work, but we are always looking for motivated volunteers filled with energy and ideas. We could use some help in the following areas:

  • Solicitation of donations for care packages
  • Dog Tagz Online Store Developer/Manager
  • Photography/Videography
  • Writer/Editor—Stories and Articles for newsletter and online
  • Social Media Mogul: Facebook and Twitter
  • In Kind Donation Solicitations
  • Artwork/Graphic Design/T Shirt design and sales
  • Fund Raising
  • Volunteer Coordination and Management
  • Grant writing and much, much more.

We are a small, but mighty non-profit so every ounce of energy is important; know that you can make a powerful difference. When it comes to volunteering, passion and positivity are the only requirements.

Stop by our Volunteer Central Page for more information or to send in a volunteer application: http://www.mwdtsa.org/volunteer.html

Thanks and we look forward to welcoming you to the MWDTSA Volunteer Family.

KONGs for K9s Offers Opportunity for Individuals to Give an Item that Keeps Giving

An assortment of red and black KONG toys
Hatos balancing a KONG on his head
Hatos’ balancing act!

MWDTSA created our KONGs for K9s event about 6 or 7 years ago as a way to reach supporters across the country and to round up quality KONG products for Military Working Dogs.

The program is simple, donors make a donation of a requested KONG product at one of our partner stores. At the end of the event, the KONGs will be gathered, counted and matched by another KONG Classic by the KONG company,

This event has been a win-win-win for various reasons. It allows MWDTSA to get quality toys donated without having to spend our precious funding. It allows small pet business partners a way to bring to their customers a method to support military working dogs in a very tangible way.

These stores are accepting donations through the end of October.

Leash On Life

Ms. Julie Phye
432 Highway 1 W
Iowa City, Iowa 52246
leashonlife.net
319-354-4334

Lucky Duck Pet Stuff

Ms. Carla Wynn
3723 E. Chesapeake Beach Road (Rt. 260)
Chesapeake Beach, Maryland 20723
http://luckyduckpetstuff.com
410-257-5080

Ma and Paw’s Bakery

Ms. Diane Sanders
1227 East 3300 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84115
http://www.maandpawsbakeryinc.com
801-487-3838

Top Dogs Pet Boutique

Ms. Suzette Lindsey
http://www.topdogs.net
2615 George Busbee Parkway
Kennesaw, GA 30114
770-218-0602

Top Dogs Pet Boutique

Ms. Suzette Lindsey
900 Mansell Road Suite 13
Roswell, GA 30076
770-641-8620

Personal Beast

Ms. Jett Wyatt
8119 SE Stark St.
Portland, OR 97215
http://personalbeast.biz/
503- 445-9449

Veterans United Craft Brewery

8999 Western Way #104
Jacksonville, Florida 32256
sgamble@vubrew.com
www.vubrew.com

The four California stores will be accepting donations through the end of November.

Pet Suites

19 Journey
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656
http://www.petsuites.com/
949- 425-0700

Three locations of The Animal Keeper:

The Animal Keeper

155 Saxony Road
Encinitas, CA
http://theanimalkeeper.com/
Tel: (760) 753-9366

3532 College Blvd
Oceanside, CA 92056
Tel: 760- 941-3221

12280 Oak Knoll Road
Poway, CA 92064
Tel: (858) 748-9676